Projects 85: Dan Perjovschi, “WHAT HAPPENED TO US?”
MoMA, through August 27.
Dan Perjovchi has defaced the huge white wall in MoMA’s main atrium. It wasn’t an act of vandalism, but rather the Romanian artist’s first solo show in the U.S. While the museum-going public looked on, Perjovchi dashed off large-scale doodles using a fat black marker. “They’re funny at first glance,” he explains in a YouTube video of the process, “but after you laugh they strike you in the stomach.” Each sketch is a one-liner with a political message: In an ostensible comment on government surveillance, one image depicts a stick figure peeking through the stripes of the American flag as though they’re part of a Venetian blind. Another shows three crosses, under which is scrawled the word “Tragedy,” and, separately, dozens of crosses labeled with the word “Statistics.” The work is clever and accessible, bite-sized bits of slap-dash genius that tickle the mind and send you on your way not knowing whether to feel depressed at the sorry state of our world or impressed by one artist’s pithy representation of it.
MoMA, through May 14.
Three decades of influential work shine forth from the backlit transparencies of Jeff Wall’s retrospective at MoMA. Many of his images depict the mundane, as in Storyteller, a picture of six ordinary people sitting on an unremarkable hill. The curiosity in such ho-hum scenes (another example is A View From An Apartment, in which a young woman in loungewear pads across her living room) is that they’re staged. Why, we wonder, did Wall carefully craft these moments, which look to us like enlarged snapshots of nothing in particular? That he did asks the viewer to pay attention: With what tales is the woman in Storyteller regaling her audience? Are we to find significance in the scene out the window in View? Some may enjoy these mysteries of ordinary life, while those who don’t may instead take pleasure in works that are rather more over the top. A Sudden Gust of Wind shows a gorgeous arc of paper caught in a current of air (selected in careful imitation of a Hokusai composition) that is nothing less than visual poetry; in The Flooded Grave, starfish and sea anemones bedeck a freshly dug plot (eat your heart out, Greg Crewdson). Wall is a master of subtlety and surreality.